A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.Â Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday,Â I present one of McLuhanâs observations and talk about its relevance today.Â 300 ideas. 300 days.Â 300 posts.
Marshall McLuhan (June 15, 1964, age 52).Â Thatâs a good question.
Iâm constantly amazed that anyone at any time can communicate anything to anyone else.Â This morning, for example, Corinne asked me, âDo you think this dress makes me look fat?â
âWhat do you mean?â said I.
âJust what I said.â
âWhat was that?â
That I think is pretty typical of conversations between married couples.Â And yet It seems to me that most of us assume that most of the time when we are communicating we are actually communicating even though, of course, weâre doing nothing of the sort.Â The better assumption to make if you want to communicate is to assume youâll be misunderstood.Â Must run, Iâm being interviewed at the CBC in 30 minutes.Â I wonder where my lucky jacket is?
âCorinne?Â Do you know where my tartan jacket is?
âThe red or the green?
âThe red, of course.â
âIn the closet, on the right.â
âItâs not there.â
âMarshall, if I come up and find it hanging there.â
âNever mind.Â Iâll find it myself.â
Me (February 2010, age 57).Â Thatâs a good answer.
What if you began every conversation with the assumption that it was highly unlikely that you would be able to get your message across instead of the assumption that it was highly likely that your message would be understood?Â You might want to keep a mental diary today, I know I will, to keep note of the number of successful and unsuccessful conversations you have – successful meaning understood and unsuccessful meaning misunderstood.Â So far, as I write this, itâs early in the day and Iâm 1 for 2.
Are misunderstandings more or less likely at home or at work?Â In which setting are you more likely to assume you will be understood?
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Reading for this post
Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p.303